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Preservation on Lana‘i

4 Jan

Even though Lana‘i is one of the most desirable getaways in Hawaii, there was once a time when this exclusive island was the private getaway of ghosts. Up until the early 1400’s, it was believed that spirits dominated this island which sits across the channel from Maui. When Kaulalaau, a mischievous chief from Maui, was banished to the island to live amongst the spirits, the fact that he survived was a symbolic indicator that Lana‘i was a safe place to settle.

preservationOver the four centuries that followed, Lana‘i would house a modest population of chiefs, priests, and commoners. Battles were waged on the ridges of the highlands, visiting royalty made retreats along the shorelines, and legends tell of rival priests who literally attempted to pray each other to death. Though many relics of the past have been lost, visible remnants of the ancient way of life remain scattered about the sparsely-developed island. Even with the recent attention towards growth, a similar amount of dedicated effort has been put towards the cultural preservation of Lana‘i.

cultural centerFor those interested in the culture of Lana‘i, the best place to start is the Lana‘i Culture and Heritage Center set in the center of Lana‘i City. Small but informative, this two-room time portal intricately weaves a story of Lana‘i through the various eras of its history. Everything here, from weapons used by Hawaiians in battle to cans of pineapple which dominated the economy—signify parts of the island’s heritage which have made Lana‘i what it is today.

More than just the displays, however, the well-informed staff are a wealth of information on helping you explore the island. When visiting Shipwreck Beach, for example, they can point the way towards ancient petroglyphs which lie in a grove that is hidden from the trail. Or, for those who want to delve more in depth, they can also discuss the cultural importance of this stretch of coastline known as Kaiolohia.

Heading south on the sandy road towards Keomoku, you’ll find the lonesome Ka Lanakila Church which was once the island’s principal place of worship. Given the historical significance of the church, renovation efforts towards cultural preservation are breathing new life into this stoic outpost. There are also efforts to preserve the sugar mill which dates to the failed plantation at Keomoku, and even though it only lasted for a year, it’s still an important era for Lana‘i since it introduced new cultures into the island’s population.

On the southern coastline, those without a Jeep can take a walk back in time on the short and rugged Kapiha‘a Fisherman’s Trail. Once overgrown by kiawe and brush, this coastal trail has been partially cleared and placards have been erected to tell the area’s history. Centuries ago, before there was a resort, and before Westerners had arrived on Lana‘i, this scenic shoreline by Hulopo‘e Beach was home to a village of adze-carvers and fishermen. Small heiau pepper the coastline, and noticeable areas have been carved in the rocks to gather salt used to preserve fish.

In an effort to fuse the old with the new, this is another example of the cultural preservation currently taking place on Lana‘i. With its unique history, tightly-knit community, and expanse of undeveloped land, Lana‘i is an island where you can preserve the past while sustainably moving towards the future.


Golfing on Lana‘i

4 Jan

For those who love statistics as much as they love golf, the island of Lana‘i might potentially lead the nation in number of golf holes per capita. Even though there are only 3,300 residents, the 45 golf holes scattered about the island make for 73 residents per hole. While a handful of towns across the country have close to the same statistic, none of them have courses which were designed by Jack Nicklaus or have tee boxes gazing over the Pacific.

When you combine this scenery with the masterful design and refreshing level of isolation, you can begin to understand why the island of Lana‘i is one of the best golf retreats in Hawaii.

Lanai golf 1 (1024x768)Of the three golf courses on the tiny island of Lana‘i, two of them are championship 18-hole courses designed by the world’s best pros. At the Nicklaus-designed Challenge at Manele, there’s a good chance you’ll be reaching for your camera as often as you reach for your putter. Three separate holes at the Challenge at Manele are flanked by the rugged sea cliffs, and during the winter months from December-March you can occasionally see whales in the distance.  On the 12th green—the signature hole where the Pacific backdrop is unobstructed for 3,000 miles—the view is so unspeakably scenic that it was the site of Bill Gates’ wedding.

More than just the views, however, the Challenge at Manele lives up to its name by testing even the lowest of handicaps. Once the scorecard is signed and the round is complete, grab a drink from the course clubhouse which looks back towards Hulopo‘e Bay. This beach was named as the best in America in 1997, and you can often make out Hawaiian spinner dolphins as they play in the waters below. Like we said, this isn’t your everyday golf course.

For those who would rather be surrounded by pine trees and bathed in the early-morning mists, the Experience at Koele is the second of Lana‘i’s 18-hole championship courses. Designed by Greg Norman, the course is a bit shorter than the Challenge at Manele, but the views aren’t any less stunning. Enveloped in forests of eucalyptus and pine, the smell of the countryside and the crisp mountain air are a welcome change from the shoreline. Here, at 2,000 feet in elevation, your drive will carry just a little bit farther—which comes in handy on the signature 17th since it’s a 200 ft. drop to the green. When the round is complete, either grab a drink in The Lodge at Koele, or make up for those three-putts on the 18-hole putting green which wraps its way around the hotel.

Finally, while nowhere near the same category as the famous, signature courses, there is actually a free, 9-hole course which goes by the name of “The Cavendish.” Directly adjacent to the Lodge at Koele, this course was opened in 1947 as a recreation option for plantation workers. There are no facilities, you must bring your own clubs, and the first hole has more dirt than grass, but the rest of the holes make for an entertaining practice round where you definitely can’t beat the price.

While guests who are staying at the Four Seasons on Lana‘i receive special discounts on green fees, all of the courses are open to the public regardless of where you’re staying. Given this option, many golfers choose to travel from Maui on the 6:45am ferry, and if you think you can squeeze in 36 holes, there are often discounts for doubling up and playing both courses in a day.

Getting Married on Lana’i

19 Oct

It’s no secret that the Hawaiian Islands are a popular destination for weddings. From San Francisco to Sydney and Toronto to Tokyo, thousands of couples a year make plans to swap their vows in paradise.
beach weddingMost weddings take place on the major Hawaiian Islands including Oahu and Maui, however, the island of Lana’i remains an exclusive getaway where you can escape the crowds. Here, on this small island of 3,300 residents, you truly feel as if the entire island is your private, romantic retreat. The sense of calm and complete silence experienced each night at sunset, and the way in which the surf erases footprints from the shoreline, all create an atmosphere that was designed specifically for you.

Of all the places to get married on Lana’i, the most popular spot is Hulopo’e Bay. This crescent of sand on the southwestern coast has been named the best beach in America, and there are numerous areas surrounding the beach which you can choose for the location of your ceremony. For those who don’t mind a short walk, the cliff top perch gazing out towards Pu’u Pehe is just a five-minute stroll from Hulopo’e. Fittingly known as “Sweeheart Rock,” this iconic sea stack offers panoramic views stretching back towards Maui and Kaho’olawe. Perfect for those seeking an intimate venue, this is a spot where you can exchange your vows on an altar which has been dramatically sculpted by the sea. For many, it’s the definition of romance and simplicity.Puu Pehe
Or, for a larger venue, the Four Seasons Resort, Manele Bay offers a host of options for swapping your vows in luxury. From the on-site salon for getting ready before the wedding, to the oceanfront cabanas looking out over the bay, this world-class resort raises the bar on tropical elegance and romance. It’s no wonder that Bill Gates was famously married here on the 12th hole of the golf course, because when you have a view that gazes out towards 7,000 miles of ocean, what other backdrop in the entire world could possible compare to Manele?

Beach handsNot a beach person? That’s okay. Lana’i also offers a rural, refined venue which is set in the mountain uplands. At the Four Seasons Resort, The Lodge at Koele, you can stroll across the grasses of an empty pasture and take photos in a private gazebo. You can exchange your vows amongst the mists of the highlands before retreating to your own private whirlpool. Here, beneath a canopy of pine trees which form the island’s storied watershed, there is a sense of history and complete escape to accompany your island wedding. It’s almost as if—despite the popularity of the islands—you’ve found a corner of Hawaii in the uplands of Lana’i that few have yet to discover.

Hiking Lanaʽi

30 Jul

Garden of the Gods

There are 430 miles of road on Lanaʽi, but only 30 of those miles are paved. There are 140 square miles of land, but only 3,000 people who live here. With so much undeveloped area, and so much room to explore, it should come as little surprise that the island of Lanaʽi is a fantastic place for hiking.

Throughout the network of dirt roads and trails, the hiking on Lanaʽi stretches from silent cloud forests to rocky shorelines which are frozen in time. Along the way are historic sites from battlefields to petroglyphs to places of worship, and you might even spot some of the island’s wildlife such as Rio Grande turkeys or mouflon sheep.
Of all of the island’s hiking tracks the most famous is Munro Trail, a seven mile jaunt which weaves its way to the summit of Lanaihale. Clear by morning and misty by afternoon, from the summit perch at 3,370 feet there can be six islands visible at once. In addition to ferns and towering pines, hikers will pass the ridge at Hoʽokio where Kahekili—King of Maui—was famously defeated by Kalaniopuʽu in the battle of 1778. Hikers will sometimes encounter Jeeps which are off-roading along the ridge, but for most of this hike expect to be surrounded by the refreshing sounds of silence.
Hike Lanai (1)
For a shorter hike which runs through the highlands and departs from the Lodge at Koele, the Koloiki Ridge Trail climbs its way towards the thickly-forested ridge. Joining for a moment with the Munro Trail, a spur trail leads to Koloiki Ridge where Maui, Molokaʽi, and the Maunalei Gulch create one of the island’s most dramatic panoramas.

Lanaʽi has more than just mountain trails, however, and various hikes can be found along the coast from the confines of Manele to the wilds   of Kaiolohia. Down on the shore at Hulopoʽe Beach Park, two short trails depart each end of the beach and highlight the beauty of this volcanic shoreline. On the southern end of Hulopoʽe, a ten-minute walk leads to secluded Shark’s Bay and the iconic sea stack of Pu’u Pehe. Commonly known as Sweetheart Rock, a heiau is visible from the top of the cliff and is evidence of the region’s rich ancient heritage. On the opposite side of Hulopoʽe, the Kapihaʽa Fisherman’s Trail weaves its way past ancient village sites and historic quarries where adzes were carved and sea salt was gathered in the rocks. When combined with the trail to Pu’u Pehe, this coastal track provides an intriguing glimpse into the history of the Manele shore. Hike Lanai2

Finally, on the “backside” of the island at the remote Kaiolohia, a coastal track parallels the water at the famous “Shipwreck Beach.” On this windswept, undeveloped coast, a thin stretch of sand runs for miles along the shoreline in an area devoid of any services or shade. Given the isolated and harsh conditions, most trekkers venture a mile towards the ship before eventually turning back in the direction they came. As a side trip, hikers can also view ancient petroglyphs which are tucked in a grove set inland from the coast and sit silently now as they did centuries ago.

These, of course, are only a sample of Lanaʽi’s trails, and from the ancient settlement of Kaunolu to the empty beaches of Polihua, dozens of corners lie waiting to be explored for those who set out on their own two feet.

Scuba Diving on Lanai

12 Jun

For many Lanaʽi visitors, the word “shotgun” conjures images of skeet shooting in the Koele highlands or hunting the island’s legendary axis deer. For scuba divers, however, mention the words “Lanaʽi” and “shotgun” together in the same sentence, and their mind is transported to a shoulder-width opening at the dive site known as “First Cathedrals.”lanai cathedrals

When diving First Cathedrals—a gaping, underwater cave that is regarded as one of the best dives in Hawaii—after divers have explored the fish-laden interior and have peered out of the numerous skylights, most elect to exit the cave through the opening known as the Shotgun. With hands gently placed on the edges of the rock window, the inbound current is strong enough to get cheeks flapping and feet flying out behind you. Moments later, the outbound current shoots divers out of the cavern like bullets in a loaded in chamber.

Hence, “the Shotgun.”

Though riding the Shotgun is a thrill unto itself, for those unfamiliar with scuba diving on Lanaʽi, the island is more than just caves and dramatically-named openings. Instead, this remote stretch of coastline is an uncrowded, warm water dive destination which is home to arguably the best diving in Hawaii. Most dives are between 40-75 feet, water temperatures range from 72-80 degrees, and more often than not, you have the dive site all to yourself.  While First Cathedrals is by far the most popular site (and is the darling of dive boats which make the trip from neighboring Maui), the island’s rocky, southwestern coastline is riddled with a dozen named dive sites which enjoy 80 ft. visibility during much of the year.

At Second Cathedrals, schools of taʽape congregate by the hundreds, and after having toured the dark chambers inside of the cathedral (which contain a rare sprig of black coral on the ceiling), you can swim with the taʽape outside of the cave in a nebula of yellow and blue. At Kaunalu—a cove which was once the summer retreat of King Kamehameha—camouflaged octopus dart between rocks while pyramid butterfly fish occupy the pinnacle. At the cheekily-named “No Name Paradise,” there’s a chance you could encounter a pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins, and during the winter months, all dives are accompanied by the captivating soundtrack of migrating humpback whales.


For scuba divers staying on Lanaʽi, rather than make the hour-long trek from Maui, all dive sites are within a 15-minute motor from Lanaʽi’s Manele Harbor. While two-tank dives at offshore dive sites are only available for certified divers, Lanaʽi visitors who are new to the sport can take introductory courses at the protected Hulopoʽe Bay. A shallow bay which is half sand and half coral, before taking to the water, resident instructors will meet you on the beach and talk you through the necessary dive skills beneath the shade of a palm. Once in the water, practice your skills over the sandy bottom before setting out over the open reef on a shallow dive of 30 feet.

Within the confines of the Hulopoʽe marine reserve, red and turquoise parrotfish loudly munch on the coral as schools of convict tang flit about the reef. Keep your eyes peeled for white spotted moray eels, and watch as weke (goatfish) use their telltale whiskers to forage in the sand.

Or, for divers who visit the island with their own gear, tank and weight rentals are available for certified divers who would like to dive on their own.

So whether you’re a lifelong diver searching for mantis shrimp at Monolith, or a nervous first-time diver taking your first few breaths underwater, the scuba diving on Lanaʽi will please all levels of divers and is one of the most popular dive holidays in Hawaii.

Lanai, Hawaii – Getting There and Getting Around – It’s Easier than you Think!

26 Feb

On Maui, the city of Lahaina is 24 miles from Kahului Airport.

On Oahu, the average drive time from Waikiki to Haleiwa is just over an hour.

Of the two million tourists who visit Maui each year, virtually all of them fly out of the Kahului Airport. Of the four million tourists who visit Oahu each year, many of them spend a day driving to Haleiwa to explore the island’s north shore.

Why do we mention this?

Because in both of these instances there is someplace closer that most visitors don’t ever think of; a place with empty beaches and teeming reefs and miles of hiking trails waiting to be explored.  We aren’t talking about the resorts of Ka’anapali or the beaches of Kapolei. We’re talking about a relaxing escape where there aren’t any stoplights and only 30 miles of paved road.

The place we’re talking about, is the island of Lana’i.

Of the millions of visitors who travel to Hawaii each year less than one percent ever make it to Lana’i. Because there aren’t any direct flights into Lana’i—an island of 3,300 residents which was once the world’s largest pineapple plantation—the extra step involved in visiting the island moves it off of many traveler’s radar. The reality, however, is that traveling to Lana’i is far easier than you think, and in many ways it’s more convenient than most travelers could ever imagine.

Manele Harbor, for example, is only 15 miles from the town of Lahaina, placing it eight miles closer than Kahului Airport. Expeditions ferry runs five times daily and departs for Lana’i at 6:45 am, 9:15 am, 12:45 pm, 3:15 pm, and 5:45 pm. If traveling from the other direction, ferries depart Manele Harbor for Lahaina at 8:00 am, 10:30 am, 2:00 pm, 4:30 pm, and 6:45 pm. Travel time between the two islands is just under an hour, and you even have a chance of spotting Hawaiian spinner dolphins or breaching humpback whales during the winter season. Roundtrip passage will cost $60, or tickets can also be purchased for $30 one-way. Children under 12 years and seniors 65 and over are only $20 each way.Image

From Oahu, a flight between Honolulu Airport (HNL) and Lana’i City Airport (LNY) only takes 30 minutes, placing it closer to the city than driving to the island’s north shore. There are four direct flights per day on Island Air, and two direct flights per day on Mokulele Airlines.  As if six flights per day weren’t enough, Hawaiian Airlines has plans to add direct flights between Honolulu and Lana’i in the second half of 2013. If you think a 30 minute flight is short, the flight between Kahului Airport and Lana’i is even shorter: Offered once every afternoon by Mokulele Airlines, the total flight times is only 24 minutes. Or, if flying commercial just isn’t your style, companies such as MarJet offer private aircraft charters to Lana’i from anywhere in the Hawaiian Islands.

Now that you know getting to Lana’i is easier than you thought, you might be surprised to hear that getting around Lana’i is easy as well. Seeing as the island only has 30 miles of paved roads and many of the sites require 4WD, Jeep rentals are the most popular mode of island transportation. Rental Jeeps are available from both Dollar Lana’i and Lana’i Jeep Rentals, and the Jeeps at Lana’i Jeep Rentals are slightly cheaper at $120/ day (as opposed to $140-$170/day at Dollar Lana’i). When compared to rental car prices on other islands, the sticker shock can sometimes be a deterrent, but what’s different about Lana’i is that you only need a 4WD Jeep on the days you plan to explore. Whereas with Maui and Oahu it’s best to have a car for the duration of your vacation, the island of Lana’i is small enough you can experience many of its backroads, beaches, and historical sites in a single day or two, which means you only need to rent a Jeep for a short period of time. Since you might only be renting a 4WD drive vehicle for a day or two, you can also offroad in style by renting a Hummer from either Dollar Lana’i or 808 Hummers.

So what do you do if you only have the Jeep for a day but still want to visit Hulopo’e Beach or grab lunch up in town? If you’re staying at one of the Four Season’s Resorts, a one-time fee of $47.50/person will grant you access for the duration of your trip to complimentary transportation aboard one of their shuttles. Shuttles run frequently between Manele Bay Hotel to Lana’i City and the LodImagege at Koele, and the two hotels are only 20 minutes from each other. The same service is available to guests of Hotel Lana’i, although the one-time fee is only $35.

The shuttle is a great service if you’re staying at one of the resorts, but what if you’re staying at a local B&B or caught the ferry over from Maui and want to travel into town? If you’ve rented a Jeep from Dollar Lana’i they will meet you at the harbor and shuttle you into town, and if anyone else would like to join it’s only $10/person. Similarly, if you would like to catch a ride on the resort shuttle, you can do so for a fee of $10/person for every time you ride. Given this service, if you’re staying in Lana’i City for the day at a small bed and breakfast, and your only plans are to go to Hulopo’e Beach for the day, you can ride the resort shuttle for $20/person roundtrip and save the money of renting a Jeep for the entire day. Since all of Lana’i City is accessible by foot, there’s really no need to rent a car if you’re just exploring around town.

Finally, if you’re on vacation and simply can’t be bothered with navigating and driving, Rabaca’s car service provides private transport to many places across the island, including tours off the beaten path, and this is another option for getting around town which is affordable, unique, and makes for a Hawaiian vacation few will ever experience.

So the next time you visit Hawaii and plan to visit your usual stops, consider making a side trip to the island of Lana’i. This exclusive getaway and enchanting landscape is truly closer than you think.

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